Short Stories

I wasn’t sure I was going to get this done in time. To be honest, I just wrote it yesterday because I had a good portion of the day off work. Anyway, happy short story Tuesday, hope someone enjoys this one. C&C welcome as always, Thanks for reading! Note* There is some slightly graphic animal and child abuse, nothing too bad, but just thought I’d give a warning.

Escaping Memory

Izzy laid her head down on the desk. A pain had grown in her skull, like large rusted nails trying to force their way through her eye sockets. A nasty image of her eyeballs popping like grapes flashed through her imagination, prompting a wave of nausea. She wasn’t the only one ignoring Mr. Patton, the English teacher. He was on a tangent, one that had started with Macbeth, and somehow ended up at a story about him taking his niece to a Justin Beiber concert. Two girls in the row beside her were snickering. Izzy glanced up through her hair, and the girls looked away from her toward each other before simultaneously bursting into laughter once more.
Mr. Patton paused, whiteboard pen still held up in a gesture of emphasis. “Is there something you’d like to share with the class?” He asked the two giggling girls.
Shara Matton, the prettier of the two with her cascade of artfully curled red hair, raised her hand. Mr. Patton raised his eyebrows at her.
“Izzy was snoring, she distracted us. Sorry Mr. Patton.” Her voice was like a song, and Izzy didn’t need to see her face to know that her wide eyes were the image of innocence.
The raised eyebrows turned to point accusingly at Izzy. “Were you sleeping in my class, Ms. Lewis?”
Izzy shook her head, but the movement made the room spin. She caught it on her hand and stifled a groan.
“Go see the nurse. You can play hookey there, not during my lesson.”

Izzy gathered her things and left, the weighted stare of her peers following her through the door. What was she going to say to the nurse? What if they called her dad? She paused when the hallway intersected. Turning left would take her toward the office. Without really thinking about it, she spun and went in the other direction, past the gym, the cafeteria, and then out the exit. The smell of damp grass assaulted her as she stepped out into the midday sun, and ran down the walkway with her books clutched to her chest.

The clerk in the convenience store had a bored look on his face. Not many people in at this time of day, most of his customers would be teenagers on their lunch break. Izzy slid a travel-size bottle of Tylenol onto the counter beside a pack of cinnamon gum. The clerk looked at the pills, and then up at her, studying her face.
“Five forty-five please.” He said, and waited for her to dig through her wallet. “Skipping school, huh?”
She shook her head, and handed him a five and two quarters. The tips of her fingers brushed his palm as he took the change, and fresh pain stabbed into her temples.

She was behind the counter, looking at a teenage boy with darting, red rimmed eyes and tousled hair. She watched him walk out, her hand on the phone, but then she removed it again. Only it wasn’t her hand. It was large, with thick black hairs near the knuckles. She felt like she should have picked up the phone, because the boy had done something bad after. Something she maybe could have prevented.

“Hey.” The clerk slid a coin across the counter. “You feeling okay, kid?”
Izzy’s throat was dry, and she couldn’t catch her breath. Her head felt like it did after one of her dad’s discipline lessons. She nodded and grabbed the packages, stuffing them into her pockets and half-jogging to the door. She glanced over her shoulder as she pushed it open, and saw the clerk’s hand pick up the phone and put it to his ear. There were tiny forests of black hair on his fingers. Izzy ran down the sidewalk, her steps lined up with the heavy thumping in her head.
She came to a quiet alley away from the main street and leaned against a concrete wall, pressing her palms against her eyes. They felt like they would burn right up and leave two blackened pits behind. She swallowed two pills, hating herself for forgetting a bottle of water. A few pieces of gum later, she risked two more Tylenol. It was the worst headache she could remember having.

Going back to the school wasn’t an option, and she didn’t have any friends to stay with. What could be worse, her dad, or the police? Her dad had beaten her for less. She didn’t know exactly what the police did to kids like her, but she had heard rumors. Locked up, studied, medicated, rehabilitated. The last word reminded her of the way her dad said discipline, it held more weight than it’s definition.
Some kids didn’t ever come back. Rumor was that they committed suicide, that the medication didn’t work for them. Izzy thought maybe that they were executed, piled into dumpsters like the ones outside of the pound her father worked at. She had seen it when she was little, was wandering around waiting for him, and had watched through a fence as he slung the stiff bodies of cats out of a metal box with a shovel.
The image stuck in her mind. Since then, every time she looked at him there it was, like the light burned into your retina after you looked at something bright too long. He had caught her watching, and afterward had wrenched her into their car by her upper arm. The pain in her shoulder never fully healed, and still clicked when she moved it too much.

Her sneakers scraped and slid against the pavement. It was a horrid feeling, having to go home but wanting nothing more than to run in the other direction. There would me a message on their answering machine to inform him of her truancy. Maybe there would even be a black and white squad car parked outside the house, lights flashing in order to signal gawking-time for the neighbors.
Her imagination need not run so far, however, because a few moments later a police car coasted just ahead of her and stopped, the door popping open. Izzy paused, considered darting off down another street. That was silly, though. She had failed gym, there was no way she could outrun a cop. Aware of each slow step she took, she approached the officer who stepped out of the car, and stood with his hands on his waist, watching her.
“Elizabeth Lewis?” He asked when she had come close enough.
“Izzy.” She mumbled, but nodded anyway.
“You’re going to have to come with me, please.” He pulled open the back door of the car. It was so polite, not like the image in her head, of being thrown up against the car and handcuffed, then roughly thrown onto the seat. It was hard to imagine that he had bad intentions. But if he had good intentions, he would have left her alone.
She took a step backward. The officer held up a hand. “Please, Ms. Lewis. We just want to ask you a few questions, then we’ll take you back to your parents.”
“It’s just my dad.” She blurted. For some reason, tears were forming at the sides of her eyes. She took another step backward, almost a stumble.
“Back to your dad, then.” The officer advanced a step, and she matched it with another one away.
“He… he hits me.” She told him.
The officer paused, then relaxed held out his hands. “Come with me. We can help you with that. We can help you with the bad things you’re feeling. Don’t you want to not feel sad anymore, Elizabeth?”
Izzy shook her head in horror. It was just like she thought, they were going to medicate her and lock her up. She turned to run, but only got a few steps before arms wrapped around her midsection and picked her up, carrying her back toward the squad car. She kicked, hit him in the stomach, lost a sneaker that was loose on her foot. It vanished under the vehicle. Then he really was pressing her against the car, slipping a plastic band around her struggling wrists. When his skin touched hers, her head rocked with a tumbling sensation.

“What’s the story for this one?” A fat man with a thick mustache asked.
She glanced toward a computer screen, where there was the boy with the red eyes and tousled hair she had seen when she had touched the store clerk.
“He killed his own sister.” She felt the deep rumble as she spoke, even though it wasn’t her own voice that came out. “We got her too, though. I heard they got some kind of telekinetic thing.”
“No kiddin’? As strong as the Jerome kid?”
“Nah, just minimal. But you know how it is, gotta catch ‘em all.”
The large officer laughed.

Izzy forced the scene away from her, destroyed it. The cop paused, his hands still clutched around her wrists. His warm breath rustled her hair, smelling of stale cigarettes. The memory of him grabbing her flashed through her head, and she erased that as well. The cop straightened, hesitating. Him seeing her, her name and appearance on the laptop mounted in his car, the radio speaking a code. Each one arose and was demolished as easily as the last, like newspaper over a flame. The officer took a step back, looked around, ran a hand over his hair. The other hand limply held the plastic band. He looked down at it with furrowed eyebrows, and up at her.
“What are you doing?” He asked her.
“Nevermind.” She mumbled, and ran down the sidewalk.

That night, her father came home at his usual time. Izzy heard the fridge door open and slam shut, then the tab of a beer can being cracked open. She walked up behind him where he sat at the couch, and rested her hand on his arm. He brought up his other hand and grabbed her wrist, vice-like grip tightening until the pain was unbearable. But Izzy was already going through his head, throwing out things here and there, erasing herself. When it was done, she took the bag she had packed and stepped through the front door.
“Hey!” Her dad called, storming over with clenched fists. “Who are you? What were you doing in my house?”
She grabbed his hand and squeezed. “I’m no one. I wasn’t even here.”

Four years later, a police cruiser turned down a dark alley, the crackle of gravel the only warning. A young boy sprinted, backpack straps clutched between his hands, breath coming in short visible puffs of steam against the cold night. He had panicked when he saw his mother in the hospital bed, hadn’t meant to do anything wrong. Her car had been crushed by a truck, and she was in critical condition. The only reason they had let him in was because she was going to die, and a kind nurse decided to let him say goodbye. But he had laid his hands on her and fixed her somehow, and then everyone was yelling at him, and they should have been happy but they weren’t, they were acting like he had done something bad. He had barely made it away then, and now there was nowhere to go. The police car caught up to him, and he felt hopeless tears stream down his face. The cop stepped out and tried to smile at him, to coax him into calming down, into coming with him.
“You’re safe, Drew. Just come with me.”
“Or don’t.” A woman’s voice startled them both, and they turned to see her leaning against the front of the cruiser. She walked over to them.
“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to —“ The officer stopped speaking. The woman had reached over the open door and touched his head.
“286 this is 341, copy?” This came from inside the car. The woman circled the door and allowed the officer to get into the front seat, keeping her hand on his skin.
“286. Go ahead.” The officer said into the radio.
The woman leaned down to his ear. “You’re going to keep driving through, and meet up with your buddy on the main street. The kid wasn’t here. Nobody was here.” She whispered.
“We got the alley blocked off on this end, Griff. Anything?”
“Negative. Coming through to check the 300 block.” The officer replied in a distant voice.
The officer got into the car and drove off slowly, as if he was still looking for something. The woman steered the boy off in the other direction.
“Who are you?” He asked.
“A friend.” She smiled and took his hand.


Short story tuesday! This one is a tad bit longer so I’ve put some breaks in it that will hopefully make it less of an eyesore. If you read it, thank you in advance!


“I feel like I’ll never be able to get along with anyone.”
Karen brightens, sits a little straighter. Phrases like that are crack to therapists. “Why do you think that?”
“I just… I notice everything.” I shrug.
“Right.” She scribbles on her pad, though I know she isn’t writing anything. We are both just playing a part here: I am the suffering nobody who acts like she is going to fix my life, she is the egocentric therapist who scribbles daisies on the sides of her paper instead of taking notes. “You mean the empathy.”

I sigh and looked away. It was a sort of experiment, me telling her about it. I’m sure she had seen a lot of patients, and I carefully read her reaction to see if she had ever encountered anyone else with my problem. A claim that one could feel the emotions of other people was not something she would likely forget. Her reaction then was the same as it was now. Indulge the crazy person.

“If you know what everyone is feeling, wouldn’t that present the opportunity to know them better? Don’t you understand people, sympathize with them?”
“You’re operating under the assumption that people are good.” I meet het eyes. She holds eye contact even though it makes her nervous. A skill probably drilled into her head during her university years. “People aren’t good. They lie. They hate. They brew and build like slow igniting fuses, all while keeping a blank expression. I do it, you do it, everyone does it.”

She stops scribbling and lays her pen down, then rubs at a spot of blue ink on her middle finger. She’s a mixture of annoyed, curious, and a few other things. There’s a sort of sly, analytical feeling, and I know the next words out of her mouth will be a test.

“Can you tell what I’m feeling right now?”
I smile and rest my forehead in my hands, shutting my eyes. “If you ate an elaborate meal, could you pinpoint every ingredient?
“Maybe a few.” She admits. “Not every one.”
“Emotions are like that. Words don’t really do them justice. It’s rare for someone to feel purely happy, sad or angry.”
“I don’t want you to think I don’t believe you, Aaron. But the better you can help me to understand it, the better I can try to help you build the skills to deal with it.”
“I know you don’t believe me. I know you’re a little bored and annoyed with me. I also know you’re craving something.” I tilt my head to the side. “A cigarette. I don’t mind if you want to take this outside, Karen. I could use one myself.”
She fiddles with her pen, watching my face. “Why a cigarette? Why not coffee, or Tylenol or something?”
“Coffee is a slow buildup to fatigue, irritability. Medication addictions are urgent, like a deep hunger. Nicotine is more incremental. It can build up, like a caffeine craving, but it pokes at you a little more. Makes you anxious.”
“You’re very perceptive, I’ll grant you that.” She stands, retrieves her coat, and gestures for the door.

She smokes a pricey menthol brand. My cigarette is cheap, and has a little tear near the filter. I squish my fingers against it as I take a drag to keep the smoke from seeping out.
“So, how fan you turn this ability into a positive rather than a negative?” Pale grey air leaks between her lips with each word. She feels calm, and so I feel calm.
“I don’t know. It’s irritating more than anything.”
“Your job probably doesn’t help with that, does it?” Her eyebrows lift. “Can you feel it over the phone?”
“I can, but it doesn’t really matter. No one likes a telemarketer, and most people aren’t afraid to express that. It’s one of the only times I feel honesty from people.”
“But you said you hate your job?”
“The commute kills me, an hour a day trapped in a sardine can with unhappy people.”
She sucks in minty chemicals, blows it out in a thin stream. “Is there really no one who’s happy?”
I shrug, unsure of how to answer. She’s really curious now… I think she’s entertaining the idea that I’m telling the truth. But her job is to make people happy, or at least less miserable. If I tell her no, she might feel overwhelmed. Happiness exists, but in traces, bits and pieces scattered among the mess of everything else. Occasionally someone will feel pure joy. A proposal, some good news, a couple discovering love. These sensations are like a strong hit, but they never last. I’m just an addict looking for the next high.

My train home is delayed. I shift from foot to foot, pace, clench my fingers. Annoyed, frantic, bored, sad, content. All of it flashes through me in a nauseating mix. Just down the platform from me, two men meet with aggression. Fight, I beg in my head. Just get it over with and be honest about your feelings. One of them, a shorter but stocky hispanic man, waves his arms toward the other as if to push him in the chest. The other man is tall, and wears a bored expression, though I can feel his hostility in heavy waves. After a few minutes of this bravado display, they are walking by me, and have stopped fighting. The hispanic man takes quick angry steps down the platform, mumbling to himself. Their anger combined with the frustration of everyone waiting for the delayed train makes me dizzy. Everything rocks momentarily and I step towards a pillar to right myself, shutting my eyes. Then the bells of the approaching train rings, and I stagger back toward the edge of the platform.
A thick body bumps heavily into my shoulder.

“Whadda fuck man?” The hispanic shoves my shoulders, finding an outlet for his aggression. I rocket backwards and collide with the tall man with whom he was fighting. Their emotions meet inside of me and I claw to get out from under the heavy blanket of rage.

I dive for the train, and manage to slip my arm in through the door before it closes just above my elbow. I grit my teeth as it presses into my skin but it opens again before there is real pain. Breath coming in huffs, I look out the window to see the two men wrapped around each other. Hispanic is feeding the tall man his fist. The tall man is trying to wrap his hands around the other man’s throat. It is vicious and horrible… but it is honest, and I feel relieved.

My arm is squished against a heavyset man who smells like he has a pile of wet cigarette butts in his pocket. In front of me is a slightly older woman, eyeing me warily. We are pressed a little too closely for comfort, but there isn’t anything I can do to remedy the situation. Feelings try to stuff themselves down my throat and cut off my air supply. The movement of the train rocks everyone into motion at once, and the hand of the woman brushes against mine as she looks for a better grip on the pole. Something shifts in her eyes. I frown. She has changed from suspicion and annoyance to anger. I try to push myself away from her, but it’s like pushing my body through tar.

I manage to only get a few inches away. I am now squished against another woman who is clutched to a swinging handhold. She tries to wiggle out from behind me and I do my best to make room for her. Before I can figure out what has happened, the two women are slapping each other, ripping at each other’s clothing. Others try to pull them apart, a businessman brushes by me to grab the younger woman, pushing me back into the heavy man again. Then he turns and reaches toward me.

“It’s not my fault!” I say, ducking. But he reaches over me for the large man and grabs his head, smashing it against the glass of the door.
I worm my way out from between them. I have to get off the train — that’s the only thought my muddled brain can form. I snake past a construction worker, then a young man with metal music playing too loud in his earbuds. The construction worker cuffs him in the side of the head. Past a teenage girl, who wraps herself around the metal-head and pulls his hair. A woman who grabs at the teenager. A man who yanks the woman back, tripping her over the feet of others.

The emergency button is barely visible through the surging mass of bodies. I crawl, willing myself to reach it. A high heel steps on my forearm. I land a kick in the ribs. I manage to press the button, but it is too loud in the train to hear the soft ring as it contacts the driver of the train. I wait a few seconds and then hit the talk button. I don’t have to say anything. Screams of pain, profanity, and threats are broadcast across the line. The train coasts into the station and stops. I am trampled, booted, punched as I drag myself to the door. It opens and I tumble out. I wave my arm at the driver who has stepped out of the first car of the train, and point toward the open door I just exited. Frantic people are making their way toward the doors that aren’t blocked, trying to get away from the chaos in the aisle. My head rests against the cold concrete, and I see a sky that is too bright, too calm in contrast.

A light shines into my eyes, one and then the other, flicking back and forth. I shut them but the afterimage is burned there. Fingers probe at my face, my arms, my sides. When they touch my skin I feel calm. When they inspect my battered side I feel consideration, care, tenderness. I need it like a man in the desert needs water, so I reach out and grab the arm of the person, open my eyes.
“How are you feeling?” She asks. Her voice is soft with a slight bit of rasp to it.
“Like I just got out of a mosh pit.” I say.
“Yeah.” She frowns, looks off to the side. “Do you know what happened?”
I nod, and feel a sharp pain in my neck. “It’s contagious.”
“You must still be a little delirious. You might have a cracked rib, definitely a twisted ankle, and some bruising. We’ll have to take you to the hospital. Try not to move around.” She gets up and walks away from me.

I turn my head, wincing. About a dozen people are being treated along the platform, some hoisted onto stretchers, and they are still trying to reach for each other through the police restraints. Squad cars and an ambulance block off the tracks. I hear more sirens in the distance.
Holding my arm tightly to my side, I limp down the platform. The fighters reach for me even as the police hold them back and gesture me away, but I pretend to stumble and let their fingertips brush my arm. Once they do, a confusion passes over their faces, and then calm. I stumble through the crowd, touching anyone I can, eradicating any shred of anger I detect. By the time I make it to the end of the platform, I am gasping at the stabs of pain in my ribs.

“Hey, you. I thought I told you not to move?” The paramedic girl comes to my side and guides me to a bench. I say nothing. As melodramatic as it sounds, I wish I could sit by this girl for the rest of my life, drinking in her positivity.
“Sorry about the delay, we’ll have more ambulances here soon.” She says. “Is your head feeling a little less fuzzy?”
I nod.
“Good.” Her smile sends tingles through my fingertips. “It looks like things are calming down now.”
I smile back.


Painting and short story by Rayna Cendre

Note* So I’ve decided to try to post a short story every week on Tuesdays. I’m not experienced in short stories. My brain typically works in novel format, but I think it’s a good way to learn to finish a piece, and finishing is something I really need work on. It’s also a nice break from my long stuff. Since I don’t have any novels quite ready to be read at this time, these will be practice for me and a taste of my writing style for anyone who’s interested in reading it. If you have any comments or critiques I’d love to hear them. Hope you like it!

The Knot Hole

Through the broken window is where I first saw her. All of the other windows were boarded up tight, not with nails but with screws, the large ones that didn’t budge even with the weight of bodies pressed against them. I wasn’t sure it was her at first. They never quite look the same. Their expressions become slack and empty, the posture rigid or slumped, and of course the skin tone is never right. Funny how those things play such a part in recognizing a person. You think it’s all about the shape of their eyes or the set of their lips, but it’s not, not really. What truly clued me in was the sheet of paper clutched between her fingers. This happened sometimes, it wasn’t something new. I’ve often seen them stumbling about with the tools of their trade still in their hands, a pen, a wrench, an apron. I think it’s just that they grab the last thing they were around when it happened, and something keeps them from letting go. They don’t really care about the things they hold. It’s just a reflex, like the last circling sprint of a beheaded chicken.

There was a knot hole in the wood, big enough to see through, but small enough to prohibit any decaying hands from reaching in. Sure enough, there she was, grasping the paper to her chest as if about to mount a stage any moment and perform her spoken words. Her writings were beautiful, the perfect balance of weaving prose and sharp triggers, manipulating your emotions in a way I could never quite figure out. She used to come to me, just like this, the paper held close. “Could I read you something?” Her voice would be soft when she asked me, her eyes pleading, almost afraid. That fear never showed on stage. Up there, her voice came out in a way I could only describe as “true”, and the audience felt it too. She could prompt tears, laughter, and hope – all in the same story.

The wind bit at my face through the knot hole. The rest of the house was cold, too, but not so bad as near the broken window. I should have boarded it twice, I knew that. Most of the lower windows had layers of wood, screws driven deep by my early sense of paranoia. Sometimes they came too near to the hole and I had to shoot one or two of them. I tried not to, as the days went on. Most of the time they ignored the sound, but occasionally they slipped into fits of rage prompted by the slightest noise. Whether their ears were more sensitive in death, or they were just hungry for the source, I didn’t know. It got worse as each week passed, as their bodies withered and rotted away, and their moans grew with volume and sorrow. I was running low on ammo, anyway, so I stopped shooting anything at all from the knot hole. I just watched them stumble by, clutching their things, starving and confused. If they got too close I would back up into the room, quiet as I could. I could hear them sniffing at the hole like dogs, clawing at the wood to no avail. I’m sure if they all coordinated their efforts to break through, they could. The broken window with the knot hole was the weakest point of my house, but I couldn’t seem to give it up.

Sometimes I cried while I watched her. Of course I had loved her – but I wept more for the sad, lost look on her face. I had even considered running out to her, letting her have me, to turn me in to one of them. Maybe then I could be with her again. But there were too many, and I feared being torn apart the second I stepped foot out the door. I don’t think she ate anybody, which was strange behavior for one of them. The skin around her mouth was still intact, not covered by the dry brown flakes of old blood that most of them wore. She was so frail, so tiny, I would do anything to hold her again. Such thoughts had to be immediately banished, though. She was not mine any longer, her soul had departed, leaving nothing but the animalistic wanderings, the hungry corpse. I could not think of her as a zombie, the word itself holds a bitter taste. She was more like a ghost, stuck in between, beautiful and dangerous. I watch her as she regards the corpses around her. I watch her look at the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees. I wish I could pray her back into her body, bring her back to life with a kiss. But the undead don’t belong in fairy tales, and I knew this ending would not be a happy one.

My food supply diminished slowly. I considered trying to make a break for the next house, but what if it was boarded up like mine was? Paranoia kept me inside. Better to die of starvation, alive, than to go on to eat other people. My skin was like saran wrap over my bones. I didn’t know a person could go so long on so little food. My wrists were the most fascinating, like twigs with big, knobby branches on the end. I started to feel like wood, like a dying tree. My mind drifted in and out of cohesive thoughts, dancing around ideas and images, a constant state of suffering and euphoria all at once. Every now and then I felt like I was lifting from my body, and I wasn’t sure if I was dying or just falling asleep. I spent all of my time at the knot hole. All that could feed me was her, just to see her, to re-live our time together. I remembered her words, her random kindness to people who most would ignore, her understanding of the state of humanity. I remember her leaving the house, just ten minutes to the store for cigarettes, while I was on a conference call. I remember not seeing her for days and the hole in my chest when I realized that she would not come home. Her body came home, though, that hollow husk, those thin fingers with the chipped ruby nail polish, the sheet of paper. In the days where I thought I would die, I mumbled to myself, imagining what could be written on that paper. I composed entire spoken word segments, inspired by hers, that could be jotted down. It felt more important than anything, like her soul was trapped in the ink, in the bleached white fibers of the page.

Now I lean my head beside the knothole and mutter these incoherent phrases, both deep and increasingly foolish, I think of her smile and her deep brown eyes shining. The wind blows against my face, bringing with it a horrid stench. My eyelids flutter open and I squint. There, again, the smell wafts in. I move to peer through the knot hole, and then stumble backwards. A dark eye is there, looking at me, rolling with hungry panic. I clutch my handgun to my chest. There is only one bullet, and I have been saving it. Perhaps for myself, perhaps for her. I hadn’t decided which one of us I could bare to let suffer. The eye backs away and I see unmarred lips, then a whole face. I lean closer to the hole, just close enough to make sure. Yes, it is her. Her corpse has found my hideout, and now she is ready to eat a living thing, to tear it to pieces and become as much a demon as the rest of them. The paper in her hands is crumpled into a wrinkled ball, held loosely between her fingers and thumb. A weight attaches itself to my heart and drops. This is it, the last sign of her. Her body is forgetting what she was, what the paper meant to her, and nothing will be left behind once it is gone. I can’t bare to see it happen. Her hands lift to pry at the hole. A choking sound escapes my throat, I hadn’t even realized I am crying, but now the tears are so thick I can hardly see. I will save her from this last act, I will take her out of misery before she can kill. Her fingers and face are level with the hole. I line up the gun, and fire.

The explosion deafens my sobs, mutes the sound of her body falling limply to the grass outside of the broken window. A few seconds go by, and other sounds emerge. A chorus of howls, saturated by rage and starvation. They heard the shot, they are coming for me. Even now the sound of their feet scraping against the grass creeps into my ears. I open my eyes, and something is different. A sphere of white against the dark floorboards. The paper. She must have dropped it through the hole when she was prying at the wood. They are coming, but I can finally know what her final thoughts were. With trembling hands I snatch it up and smooth out the creases, careful not to rip it. My heartbeat is in my ears, my breath rapid and hoarse.

They are at the broken window, dozens of them, their weight pressing against the wood. It groans and bows and I hear a snap. My eyes shoot up to see a crack running down from the knot hole. It is the first board to break, and arms burst through the gap. Soon they will be inside, and they will devour me. But this is okay, because I can see it now, the words on the paper, if I can just get the tears to quit blurring my vision. I blink rapidly until I can make out the writing. It is shakier than I had thought it would be, and shorter, too. Rather than a five hundred word story it is merely five, and I have just enough time to read it before they reach me.

I am still in here.